Escanaba, M.Br., Michigan, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-IV+ (varies with level)|
|Avg. Gradient||18 fpm|
|Max Gradient||50 fpm|
|Escanaba, M.Br. Upper|
|virtual-10535||100 - 800 cfs||II-IV||48h07m||~ 324.415 cfs (running)|
|Likely low-to-moderate flows. Virtual gauge projects flows here (~165 sq.mi.) based on gauge way upstream (46 sq.mi.). MUST CONFIRM ACTUAL LEVEL VIA ON-SITE INSPECTION.|
More like 'drop/lake' than 'drop/pool'. (Much flatwater between drops, but the
drops are good and the flatwater sections are a beautiful wilderness river.) The first three
drops (while not overly complex) can be the most troublesome (i.e., most likely to be portaged,
or likely to cause major thrashings). With high water, almost all of the drops on the run will be
Since this is a rather long run, with extended flatwater between drops (one stretch of nearly 3 miles, another nearly 2 miles, and three others over a mile each), feelings about this run tend to divide into two categories. Many boaters will 'pass', or do it once or twice and say "Never again!" Others will consider the flatwater a reasonable price to pay for the variety and challenge of drops it contains, and will keep it on their list of favorites to hit regularly. This is especially true since this river tends to have a longer season (runs a bit later or more often) than most of the U.P. creeks.
The resolution on Google Maps for this area is quite good. We highly recommended going to the 'Map' tab, clicking 'Satellite', click & drag to center on the first drop, zooming in to the maximum resolution available, and doing a 'virtual walk' of this reach!
Historically, boaters had put-in from a gated, dead-end road (labeled County Road PPE on GoogleMaps, but I'm not sure if you'll find on-location signage) where they'd park in one of the few wide spots (to allow other vehicles to be able to pass). Early/Late-season (when owners may be less-likely to be present), put-in may still be possible here. However, given how extremely boater-NON-friendly the owners of the property at White City Falls have been, we can not recommend parking here, nor taking the hike down the road (past the gate, to where the river gets within 30 yards of the road) to put-in.
Our recommended put-in is at the bridge at Co.Rd.CG, which adds 1.5 miles of flatwater to the
start of this long trip.
Take-out is at a dead-end road which branches west from CR565 about a mile north of the river. (This is labeled County Road MWD on GoogleMaps, but again, I'm not sure if you'll find on-location signage.) Land at our listed take-out is privately held, but all reports are that the owners there have been very boater-friendly. Please be on your best behavior, be very respectful of the private property, and leave no trace of your passing, so we may continue in their good graces to use this access. Most boaters who do this run will wish to continue to the next 1.6 miles (the Lower M.Br.Escanaba). Alternately, boaters looking for a quick run (with minimal flatwater) may wish to consider just doing that run instead (using this site as their put-in).
Regardless which put-in and take-out are used, it's a long run, and a correspondingly long shuttle. If at all possible, plan to meet at your chosen take-out. Change and leave dry clothes and drop-vehicle(s) there (if possible, with enough space for all boaters, and rack space (and straps!) to handle all boats). Put all boats/boaters on/in other vehicle(s) and drive to the put-in. This will save time by avoiding the need to leave people sitting and waiting (well over an hour for the round-trip!) while shuttle drivers run vehicles down and back before the run. (Obviously, some vehicle(s) will need to make the trip back to the put-in to pick up the vehicle(s) left there, but the point is, that is done after boating rather than delaying boating.)
Mapping/routing apps are likely to show various alternate routes. A south route (on Hemmings Lake Road) is a dirt road through the woods, and is likely to have areas of mud with severe ruts. GoogleMaps' default shuttle-route/directions is on mining roads which are private and gated. For this reason, we have set this directions page to default to show drive time, distance, and directions from your home zipcode. You can use the text-entry box and option buttons to select directions from any other location to get to this run.) You can also 'zoom in' to see roads for the following recommended shuttle.
The best/preferred shuttle-route (using paved roads) from listed take-out to put-in is:
Head east (0.8 mi) on County Rd MWD.
Turn left onto Hwy.565 (also labeled Missouri Road).
After 3.9 miles, turn left (to stay on Hwy.565/Missouri Road) for another 1.4 miles.
Turn (hard/sharp) left onto County Road 476, proceeding 5.5 miles.
Turn left onto County Road PG, for 2.4 miles.
Turn left onto County Road 581 for 2.2 miles.
Turn left onto County Road CG, for 2.2 miles, to arrive at bridge/put-in.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||USGS sampling site||N/A|
|1.6||White City Falls||III+|
|2.2||Second City Falls||IV|
|5.8||Squeeze, Rock Island, Play Waves||III+|
USGS lists a sampling site with drainage area of 164 square miles at our listed/preferred put-in. You'll have ~1.6 miles of flat/flowing water (no rapids) to the first major drop.
Definitely worth scouting (from river-right, due to private property on river-left), this falls is just around the corner from the put-in (or 1.6 miles from the Co.Rd.CG put-in). In summer, you may encounter very aggressive (non-boater-friendly) landowners taking issue with your presence even when not on river-left. Do not dally any longer than necessary here!
The lead-in is pretty straight-forward. The lip of the falls is seriously 'notched' on river left, up against a wall of rock at left shore. A significant hole and boil will exist at medium-to-high flows. The right wall downstream in the pool is undercut, and the boil is likely to push you strongly in that direction! There is a bit of a 'room-of-doom' in the eddy near the falls, so you probably want to try to angle left off the lip and drive out through the boil and downstream.
In some ways a bit like a bigger, meaner version of the first falls. There are a few good diagonal waves in the lead-in (to trip you up if you aren't careful). The lip of this falls has a big boulder left-of-center. There may be a (theoretical) line to one side or the other near this boulder, but most runs are more center-to-right, to come off a bit of a tongue of water. The landing seldom seems too 'keepy', but again, there is an undercut wall downstream right.
As the river encounters an island, the left channel spills across a couple of ledges. They are generally quite straight-forward, and could offer some play (other than generally we have never been in a 'play' mode on this long run). (My first run on this, we encountered an inner-tube on a very extended surf in this ledge/hole!)
A 'guard rock' or 'guard ledge' confuses the entrance to a half-dome hump of rock. The recommended line (usually) appears to be attempting to ride the top of the hump (to avoid the aggressive holes left and right), but that is more easily said than done.
A brief pool separates this drop from the preceding drop (Half Dome). A line of rocks splits the flow into a number of pourovers. More rock downstream left tends to funnel more of the flow to river-right, through a short series of waves and holes, before it smooths out to a swift runout into a good pool.
After this feature, there is nearly three miles of flatwater (punctuated only by a few very minor riffles or rips) until the next significant features.
After a long (2.9 miles) flat stretch with only one minor rapids interrupting, you finally get to a significant narrowing of the river. A (sometimes) quite juicy pourover/ledge lies in the narrows. Flow heads toward a large rock island, and is diverted to the right, into a large pool. Out of the pool, the flow trips across numerous waves and holes, some of which can be pretty sweet looking. Play may be possible on a few of them, though (again) we've typically been more intent on continuing downriver on this long run.
This is followed by very nearly a full mile of flatwater, again with only minor rips interrupting.
A few different routes are available/viable here, so some may opt to carry up to try more than one. To extreme river-left, a small pourover drops into a 'sluice' between shore and a line of rock parallel to it. To extreme right, a wider channel (or sluice) leads to an often grungy exit. Partway down this route, one can veer left to head to center stream. Down the middle there is generally considerable less flow (obviously at low-to-moderate flows for the river). Overall, generally not too difficult, but you can find/make some more technical or interesting lines. The runout often has a small surfable wave. Scouting is advised (particularly for river-right lines) as this area has been known to accumulate jumble piles of wood (hence the rapids name).
Following this you'll encounter the second longest flatwater stretch, with ~1.8 miles to the next significant feature.
After nearly 1.8 miles of flatwater, some minor boulderbed rapids are encountered. The river takes a right-angle bend (to the right) and a horizon line awaits. This is a sweet sliding drop, into what can be a rather sticky hole (at some flows). Generally best just right down the center, but occasionally boaters may try a line more to the left, to avoid the 'meat' of the hole, and drop a little bit of a 'boof' which can exist off the end of the slide to that side.
The hole can (at times) look really sweet for play, however, the right side of the outflow pool has much rock, generally fairly smooth but also generally fairly shallow, which will hamper access and generally inhibit most interest in risking much play. A LARGE pool (almost a lake!) follows, before the river twists left to continue.
(Note: Rating this rapids is a bit tricky. It is such a simple smooth slide (with no complexity to the approach, and a huge pool below) that it could be called barely class II. However, good boaters have gotten 'worked' by the hole at the base of the slide, which would suggest that it can deserve the class III or higher rating. YMMV.)
Following this, you'll have ~1.2 miles of mostly flatwater to the next significant feature.
Just beyond a good jig-jog right and then left, the final rapids/falls of the 'upper' reach is encountered. A short pourover/wave/hole traverses center-to-right, causing boiling swirly water preceding the main action here. A huge rock lies just left-of-center below. Water flowing between the sloping bedrock of the left shore and this 'middle finger' tends to funnel into a really aerated boil below. Best outflow is tight to the left wall, since a ledge of shallow rock lies immediately behind the 'middle finger'. To the right of the 'middle finger', flow drops across a couple smaller ledges/rocks (possible hole or two) before meeting the pool below. Often the sweet/semi-gutsy line (to avoid the potentially tricky boiling pourover at the top of this drop) is to start at river-left shore above the drop, drive powerfully toward the right, on smooth flow (which heads toward the 'middle finger' and drops down the left line), keeping your boat upstream of the rock, to drive into the right channel as previously described.
From this feature, it is just over a mile to our listed take-out, or (if continuing with the lower section) about 1.4 miles to the next interesting feature.